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Middle Eastern Developments

by Des Moore

AIJAC Meeting, July 12, 2010

Notes on presentation by Ehud Ya’ari (Israeli TV Commentator)

There have been major recent shifts in Middle East situation. While Obama has not publicly declared a change in US policy (and probably won’t admit he was previously mistaken), the US has made a major change. It has realised it wasn’t getting anything in return for its previous policy from countries like Syria and Iraq.

Thus, while the US retains its final objective, it has recognised that there is no chance of “containing” a nuclear Iran. Most Arabs have convinced the US that, if Iran becomes nuclear, it will cause more problems in the ME than it does now. However, Iran is still a way off becoming an effective nuclear power: for that it needs more than a couple of bombs (“an arsenal”) and also an effective way of delivering by missile. The latter it does not yet have. That means Obama has no short term concerns.

But all US options are now on the table ie while the hope is to take other courses, military action is now an option (although not yet “a policy”). Thus there is now a new understanding with Netanyahu. Some Europeans have also become tougher.

There is also a change on Afghanistan. Reflecting advice from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia an attempt will be made to negotiate with “moderate” Taliban. Karzai’s removal of his intelligence minister is relevant. Obama influenced by Prince Abdullah (SA).

On Iraq, while it is time for the US to start moving out, its forces will be replaced with UN forces, most of which will be American. It is crucially important to have a government in Iraq not subjected to Iran. So far Malaki has rejected Iran, which controls Hezbollah (which has a massive stock of rockets that can hit Israel, incl long range ones).

There is now a very loose northern alliance consisting of Iran, Turkey (where the military are on the outer), Syria and Lebanon. But this is not based on the doctrine of “everlasting conflict” (or jihad). Syria claims Iraq will join the group. Turkey and Iran are “competing” in the region, although Turkey will maintain a low level alliance with Israel. Thus the non-Arab states are Israel’s main problem.

Turkey is ruled by AKB (?) party, which is a variation of the Muslim brotherhood. The object is to extend within the ME – a kind of “Muslim Kissinger” approach – covering the old caliphate. Between Turkey and Syria there is now free movement of people.

Israel-Palestine relations will now reflect the changed Obama position, with direct negotiations instead of indirect. Europeans are telling Palestinians that less money will be forthcoming unless there is progress on peace. Abaas, who has built a government based on patronage, will handle the negotiations with Israel, with the aim of Israel withdrawal from most of the West Bank and, of course, an independent state.

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